My wife is a speech pathologist by education and early work experience. One of the things that drives her crazy is one word answers. Her approach in teaching speech has always been to ask questions that create a conversation. The only way to get the kids she was working with to improve their speech was to get them to talk. You can see how one word answers wouldn’t further that goal.
In the context of networking, asking someone if they know about any open jobs is a one way ticket to a very brief conversation. Have I heard about any open jobs? Sure, but it was two weeks ago. I don’t remember very many of the details, but I’m sure you would have been a perfect fit for it. (Those you ask this particular question honestly don’t realize they are torturing you.)
On the other hand, explaining your background in a concise and understandable manner, perhaps preceded by your sending a resume for quick reading, can easily generate a long ranging and beneficial communication.
The question you need to ask is: Can you think of individuals who are known to you who would understand what I do and who might be willing to have a conversation with me? I realize the possibility of their having an open job at their firm that would be a fit for me is remote, and, it is not necessary. I just want to get introductions to people who have some connection to what it is I do. They in turn will know the right folks for further introductions.
This process is called networking at its best. Sooner or later, you will meet someone who has a problem that you have solved many times. Sometimes, this problem will just come flowing out during your meeting. The problem when you sat down didn’t have a job associated with it. Now let’s see. I just realized I have a problem. I further realize that the person sitting across from me has solved this problem. Am I really going to keep looking for someone to solve it when the answer is sitting across from me? No, the job is now yours to lose.
Networking is actually a lot easier than most people think. Connecting the dots, following the yellow brick road, leading others down the primrose path, it’s all duck soup to those who know how to do it and who are not so blinded by their panic to find another job that they ask the wrong questions.
I am always surprised when members ask me to keep them in mind when I hear about jobs. Honest, everything I hear about I publish in our newsletter.
Sure, there are others who hear about open jobs and on a given day may not be so self-absorbed that they think of calling you, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Most jobs aren’t even jobs when you first learn about them. They are problems that need to be solved.
So, before you ask someone if they know about any jobs, know that this is the original conversation killer. Ask an open ended question that will get that networking contact started. For example, do they have any search professionals to recommend that you may contact? (Everyone has a few favorite recruiters.)
Once you get them talking, you may find you won’t be able to get them to stop. And in this way, you won’t even have to hold them down until they give you 3 names. They will babble on until you only hope they will stop.